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Eating Out: Football duo's venture already in premier league of Belfast pizzerias with Pizza on the Square

Pizza on the Square – what’s coming out of that oven is far more than smoke and mirrors. Picture by Hugh Russell
Seamus Maloney

Pizza on the Square

1 Donegall Square West

Belfast

BT1 6JA

028 9032 9473

pizzaonthesquare.ie

ON THE south-west corner of Donegall Square in Belfast city centre sits the George Best Hotel, or rather a building plastered in weather-beaten signage promising the George Best Hotel will be ‘opening summer 2018’.

The project to transform the Scottish Mutual Building has been beset by problems and delays, so when it's actually going to open is anyone’s guess.

Over on the north-west corner, things have gone much smoother at another turn of the last century-built insurance HQ, with a Northern Ireland international footballer heavily involved.

Aberdeen winger Niall McGinn and football agent Gerry Carlisle, who have previously collaborated on west Belfast restaurants Failte and 26 West, are behind Pizza on the Square in the Scottish Provident Building.

Inside it’s a mix of the muted panelling and leather banquettes you’d expect in a converted, stately building like this, and the exposed timber and filament lightbulbs that come included with every new restaurant opening.

It’s also a bit smoky, with the oven just across the counter at the front of house spewing out serious aromas but the occasional eye-stinger too – nothing some improved extraction couldn’t fix.

It’s busy for a Monday lunchtime, though it’s a post-Christmas, Belfast city centre, sale shoppers escaping the madness Monday lunchtime.

The staff are quick and friendly, and what’s coming out of that oven is far more than smoke and mirrors.

For me, the garlic bread could have had a bit more garlic, but the bread was fantastic. Chewy in parts, blistered and cream crackery puffed in others, it couldn’t be faulted. This boded well for the actual pizzas. If that much care is put into the base of a garlic bread opening act, how good would the headliners be? Answer (without swearing): really flipping good.

While Belfast city centre – like most places – has seen quality spots for ‘craft’ burgers spring up everywhere in recent years, it’s has also been blessed with pizza places that deliver far more than diners have been used too.

The long-established Little Wing has been joined by Scottish imports Pizza Punks and Tony Macaroni which, ridiculous name and not great pasta aside, knows what to do with its bread.

Pizza Boutique, which survived the Primark fire but found itself forced to move along with a number of other Castle Street businesses when the landlord decided to redevelop the building, was probably the best of all, and can still be found in Belfast as a Saintfield Road takeaway.

Pizza of the Square stands right with all of these, already jostling for the top spot.

Because it’s the new year and we’re trying to detox and recalibrate with the world around us and make sure we let everyone know about it, both pizzas that get ordered are vegetarian. Or, they just happened to be vegetarian and I had two sausage rolls for my tea.

Anyway, the pizzas were superb.

A not-too-sweet sauce and the elastic strands of mozzarella on both came with sharp goats cheese and sweet, just crunchy red onion on one and mushroom, garlic and black pepper on the other. All of it came on two more exemplary rounds of bread, each the size of a tastefully unobtrusive satellite dish. A lot was taken home. The glistening, crisp cubes of garlic and rosemary potatoes didn’t make it that far.

There are a few desserts available but that offering – along with the rest of the menu – will be expanded and refined in the coming months.

It was just as well, because any sweet may well have come bouncing back out at that stage, unable to get past the payload of bread, tomato and cheese that had just been freighted on board.

Pizza on the Square hasn’t been open a month yet, but whatever plans they have to tweak and tease things to get them just right, they don’t have far to go.

And if they don’t change a thing about their star attraction, they’ll still be the place to go for some of the very best pizza in Belfast.

THE BILL

Garlic bread £3.95

Diced potatoes £4.50

Campagnola pizza £11.95

Veggie pizza £10.50

San Pellegrino lemon £2.95

Elderflower Fever Tree tonic £2

Total £35.85

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